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Town 6 – Lisnaskea Rovers 3 (aet)

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On an afternoon that saw Pineau De Re win the Aintree Grand National at attractive odds of 25-1, Enniskillen Town United continued their quest to attain what not even the great Red Rum could…

…three in a row, as they progressed to the semi-finals of the Mulhern Cup after a pulsating extra-time victory over Lisnaskea Rovers at The Complex on Saturday last. The tie also saw Town make a welcome return to home soil after an enforced nineteen week hiatus.

This game had everything – crunching tackles, penalty appeals, a befuddled referee, an incredulous sending off, five and a half volleyed goals, a goalkeeper in tights and Seamie Quigley in the red and black of Down!

Indeed, the opening ten minutes provided more action than the entire previous round’s tie against Lisnarick. Town keeper Pat Cadden was forced into an early save from James McKenna, before being pressed into action again after his poor clearance was returned with interest from Mark McKenna on the half-way line. Thankfully for Town and a stranded Cadden, McKenna was unable to replicate Paul Crane’s wonder goal against Strathroy in last season’s race for the title. Town responded with a Matt McAuley shot that was cleared off the line and a Frank Wallace effort that drew a wonderful one handed save from Adam Lanigan after some fine link up play from Gary Beckett and Stephen Clarke.

Stephen Chambers shot poorly when well placed while Wallace watched his effort hit the side netting after Simon Douglas had his pocket picked by Beckett. Wallace then showed admirable strength in holding off his marker before turning smartly and firing wide from the edge off the area.     

Clarke was at his best to halt an Andrew Copeland run with a well timed, last ditch tackle, before Town saw the first off a number of strong penalty appeals turned down after Wallace had been felled with a scything challenge. The visitors replied with two Brian McDermott efforts. His header drifted wide after a hesitant home rearguard allowed Lanigan’s clearance to bounce. He then failed to beat Cadden after outpacing the Town defence. Defence was soon attack. Cadden cleared to Crane who in turn fed Beckett. His intricate pass released Clarke whose back post cross was met by Stephen Chambers to complete a sweeping move and volley home on thirty-four minutes. One-nil!

McAuley, and Matthew Chambers had further chances to double the advantage before Stephen Chambers again forced visiting keeper Lanigan to dirty his tights. Speaking of such brazen attire, one has yet to see if it is the new fad amongst goalkeepers or, if the young net minder is simply being kind to “Lanigan’s Balls!”

Rovers introduced Seamus Quigley and he was soon in on the action. His classy flick unhinged the Town defence to release Copeland. Conor Tummon made the covering tackle. He then brought out the best in Pat Cadden as the first half drew to a close.

Keith Marshall had barely filled the half-time hat when the visitor’s drew level. Town failed to deal with an Adam McKenna cross and Seamus Quigley’s volleyed finish made it one-one. A clearly ebullient Quigley engaged in the most rumbustious and entertaining of goal celebrations as he vociferously and steadfastly denied the rumours that he is receiving £70 per game. He then informed the watching hordes that it’s actually £90! A pound a minute in the Fermanagh and Western? Not bad work if you can get it! That is, if “Big Seamie” is to be believed, of course…

McAuley was wide with a free header after a delightfully dinked Crane cross while Town saw another loud penalty claim turned away after Ryan Hanna was upended. In fairness to Lisnaskea, a Quigley slip in the area also resulted in some half-hearted penalty appeals. The rest of us just shouted “TIIIMBERRR!”

The next big talking point was soon to follow as news began to filter through the attendance of new Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino’s stunning Appeal victory over the bureaucratic descendants and disciples of Alan Hardaker at the Football League. Ciara Branley was the bearer of good tidings.

Back to the game and James McKenna headed wide from a well worked corner. A notice of intent, the visitors then forged ahead on seventy-one minutes. Sarto Quigley’s cross was headed back across goal and dropped delightfully for Mark McKenna to score on Grand National Day. All present agreed that it was a fitting tribute to the man!

The lead barely lasted four minutes. A Town corner caused unnecessary confusion in the visitor’s defence. Hanna’s toe poke was the game’s fourth volleyed goal. Pat Cadden was at full stretch to again deny Copeland before Town regained the initiative on seventy-nine minutes. Rovers could only head a harmless Beckett cross as far as Wallace. His centre presented Russell Wheeler’s Cub with the simplest of tap-ins. Beckett very nearly wrapped up proceedings but could only watch as his sublime chip grazed the bar.

Therein followed one of the most bizarre moments I have witnessed on a soccer pitch. As Rovers full back Sean Keenan attacked the Town flank he inadvertently ran the ball over the touchline. With less than five minutes on the clock and his team desperately chasing an equaliser, Keenan, who was already on a yellow card, decided to boot the ball as hard and as far away as he could, leaving referee, Barry Monaghan, no option but to send him off. One can only assume that he had £50 each way on the favourite in the National.

Lisnaskea substitute Sean Mullaney had no such concerns about the big race. He collected the resultant throw-in and smashed a terrific half-volley from the edge of the area for three-three and extra-time. And one man who certainly had no interest in the Grand National was Town’s Malcolm Crawford. With time up, Paul Crane’s through ball  presented him with the simplest of opportunities to win the tie from six yards. Crawford’s skied effort probably cleared Beecher’s, Valentine’s, The Chair, The Water Jump and the Foinavon Fence on its way to passing the Melling Road and quite possibly The North Pole for that matter!

And so to the two idiosyncratic ten minute periods of extra-time. Seamie Quigley, who was now working overtime, had an early effort stopped by Cadden. Indeed, it was indicative of Rovers, who despite their numerical disadvantage, continued to press. It was gallant. It was also their downfall.

Six minutes had elapsed when Beckett released Wallace. He squared for RWC to make it four-three. It was five after one hundred minutes. Hanna’s raking cross field pass found RWC who showed superb control in cushioning the ball on his chest and playing a neat one-two with Beckett. Homing in on his hat-trick, the diminutive, young striker was denied by Lanigan. The ball then broke to Beckett on the edge of the box whose ruthless and perfectly executed volley earned warm applause as it nestled in the bottom corner of Lanigan’s net. It was the best goal of the game. Or so we thought..

Right at the death, Wallace embarked on a trade mark run before delivering to Beckett’s feet. Tightly marked, the timeless maestro engaged in an outrageous piece of prestidigitation, in simply ignoring Wallace’s overtures, allowing him to collect his own pass and continue his run before flashing an angled drive across Lanigan for number six.

Town have cleared the Canal Turn and are heading for home.  

The Town: P Cadden, M Chambers, C Tummon, N Dunbar, D McQuade, P Crane, S Clarke, M McAuley, G Beckett, S Chambers, F Wallace.

Subs – R Hanna for Clarke (63), RWC for S Chambers (70), M Crawford for M Chambers (80).

Referee: Barry “Pepper” Monaghan – Quare and bad hi.

Attendance: 96 – There was only 5 at the Derrychara game.

Top Townie: Russell Wheeler’s Cub – turned the tide as he added a whole new dimension to the Town attack. Bagged a brace and deserved a hat-trick.     

Comedy Moment: With Town pushing for the all important two goal cushion, Nicky Dunbar’s eighty-second minute “thunderbolt” free kick smashed the post from all of thirty yards. Unfortunately for poor Nicholas, it was the corner post!

“So You Did Son Moment”: Gary Beckett’s one-hundredth minute goal was reminiscent of Paul Scholes at his best. A supreme display of technique from the portly veteran.

Words from a Song: The Green Green Grass Of Home. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u81CTfbc99c

Manager Watch: A good afternoon for Ginger McCain.  

…And Finally: He’s still the greatest…      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oiGaX0d_Pjk

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